2014/2015

RozewiczKafka

‘Under Kafka’s Spell – Rozewicz and The Trap’ by Eliza Anna Falk

ElizaFalk_1038x576The Ambassador Theater is back with its biggest production to date, showcasing work of one of the greatest post-war poets and playwrights of the 20th century, Polish-born Tadeusz Rozewicz. Produced and directed by Hanna Bondarewska, The Trap takes us inside Kafka’s bizarre life, at the same time making us reflect on the alienation of a modern artist and fragility of life. The US premiere of The Trap coincides with the 1st anniversary of the author’s death, as well as the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi concentration camps, and as such is a timely and important opportunity to carry on Rozewicz’s artistic message about the tragic history of WWII. (The play opens on May 28 and plays through June 21, at XX Bldg., 814 20th Street NW, Washington DC. See www.aticc.org for more information.)

“After fifty years of composing poetry and plays I came to understand the futility of unravelling the Franz Kafka “mystery”. My only justification is that I worked and wrote as best I could”. “This is my farewell to Franz Kafka. I’m 69. The time of farewells is close” – Tadeusz Rozewicz (Rozewicz1: 8).

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Spellbound by Kafka

The Trap published in 1982 was not only Rozewicz’s farewell to Kafka, but also a ‘crowning’ of his long fascination with the enigmatic writer. Rozewicz’s interest began in 1949 when he visited Franz’s hometown, Prague for the first time, returning in 1957. Yet despite the author’s continued ‘dialog’ with Kafka and few short sketches from the travels, he had not written a major work related to Franz until much later. His play inspired by Kafka and based on his short story A Hunger Artist (where caged showman starves for long periods for amusements of crowds), was written in 1979. In the piece titled The Hunger Artist Departs and regarded as a precursor to The Trap (Filipowicz: 164), Rozewicz created his own version of the ’hunger artist’ seen through the prism of Kafka. In the Post Scriptum to the play he wrote: “Franz Kafka himself (…) was one of the great authentic Hunger Artists” (Rozewicz1: 111,) an artist known to be obsessed with desire to create, and prepared to sacrifice earthly pleasures in the name of art. The same artist we see in The Trap.

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 Kafka’s genius aside, Rozewicz’s fascination also stemmed from what the two had in common. Both were preoccupied with examination of human soul and fate, and wrote from the heart not caring about the literary canons. Both shared a common and profound interest in the fundamental issues of human condition, and as artists dealt with and wrote about solitude, estrangement and the existential pressures. The disturbing and moving atmosphere of Kafka’s works and his way of perceiving reality resonated with Rozewicz’s post war angst, times, when in conflict with the cruel world, he was trying to cope with feelings of helplessness and despair. One can see why Kafka’s heroes -victims of fate trapped in a prison-like setting desperately looking for escape – struck a chord with Rozewicz. Not surprisingly Kafka’s symbols of ‘cage’ and ‘mole’ found their way into his poems, prose and plays (Drewnowski: 289) to demonstrate the alienation of an artist and cruelty of the world.

Victims and Sons

Although the writers were born in different centuries (Kafka in 1883, Rozewicz in 1921), both became innocent victims of their environment and experienced deep psychological traumas. Rozewicz lived through World War II (WWII) and later, living in “free” Poland, suffered under the Stalinist regime. A witness to atrocities of war and the Holocaust, he was never able to free himself from the horrific visions of war crimes. His poetry, prose and plays strongly reflect the impact those experiences had on his and his generation’s psyche, outlook and vision of the future: “I am twenty-four led to slaughter I survived. (…) The way of killing men and beasts is the same I’ve seen it: truckfuls of chopped up men who will not be saved” – he wrote in 1945 in his poem The Survivor. In another poem, Beyond Words, he said: “What are you doing emerged from darkness – Why don’t you want to live in full light – Within me war opens up an eyelid of a million shattered faces – Blood smeared what are you piecing together what is your burden – I am piecing together words – I carry my time (…)” (Rozewicz2).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

   Kafka’s drama had much more personal roots. Shy and neurotic, trapped between an overprotective, weak mother, and a critical, domineering father, he became an emotional cripple, forever doubting himself and his manhood. The conflict with his father was so deeply embedded in his psyche that neither becoming an adult nor securing a job as an insurance official helped him to break the toxic bond or heal the relationship. Torn between a desire to devote himself to writing, and the pressure to marry, settle down and emulate his father, he was unable to find peace and contentment – either as a man or an artist. So strong were his fears, self-doubt and feelings of guilt, so weak his health that he broke off engagements, never married, and ordered his entire writings to be destroyed after his passing.

   Family was of the utmost importance to the artists.  Rozewicz was as devoted to his loving, caring mother (who came from a Jewish family converted to Catholicism) as was Franz. His father, although of kind disposition, just like Franz’s, was not interested in his son’s literary ambitions.  In Mother Departs, a family memoir, Tadeusz writes: “’I am a poet’, you search for synonyms to help you come out to the world (…) Of course, Mother knows. But to say something like that to my father was unthinkable…So I never did tell my Father (…) he’d be so remote (…)” (Rozewicz3). Artistic vocation was a source of guilt for both – Kafka felt guilty of not meeting his father’s expectations, Rozewicz of being a poet. Both witnessed loss of their siblings. Two of Kafka’s younger brothers died by the time he was six, whereas Rozewicz’s elder brother, like him a member of the Polish Home Army, was tortured and killed by Gestapo.

Revolutionaries

Kafka and Rozewicz’s contributions to literature are highly innovative and unique. Since posthumous publication of Kafka’s major novels, his original style of writing has been hailed as revolutionary in the way it affected language and expression (Deleuze and Guattari: 16). Kafka himself indicated in his diaries and theoretical notes that he was inventing a new type of literature (14). Despite a general consensus that Kafka created “a new literary continent” by wiping out “old topography of mind and thought” (16), his prose has been placed into a variety of literary schools and keeps being examined and interpreted. Yet irrespective of numerous analysis and attempts to label the style of his unusual writings, it has been impossible to define Kafka’s ‘literature’ and its impact with one term, other than with the word “Kafkaesque”. Used to describe situations and concepts reminiscent of his work, the term is a true testament to uniqueness and originality of Franz Kafka’s artistic creation which keeps baffling readers and critics.

   Rozewicz, an experimenter and innovator, is known for revolutionizing 20th century poetry after the tragedy of WWII. Deeply hurt, shocked and ‘mimed’ by the war crimes, the author rejected the traditional poetic language as unsuitable to express the post-war reality, and created ‘anti-poetry’ characterized by stark, direct language and simple form (Rozewicz2: 337). Concurrently, inspired by ‘theatre of the absurd’ and Kafka’s concept of ‘inner drama’, the poet experimented with theatrical forms in search of his own style, which he later described as ‘realistic-poetic’. (Braun: 37). The result was an ‘interior, open theatre’, in which the stream of consciousness replaced action and became a formless (yet poetic) record of human experience (Braun: 24). The ‘open’ theatre, where plays lack traditional structure with beginning, middle and end, may also have been inspired by Kafka, known for starting to write in the middle rather than from the beginning and leaving works unfinished, including his only play, where  “the action slowly dies away and eventually comes to a halt” (Rozewicz4: 111). 

Traps within The Trap

One of the main themes of Kafka’s writings is an archetypal situation when an innocent  human being is attributed a fault, ostracised and trapped in a hopeless predicament, yet keeps maintaining his innocence and seeks atonement. The world Kafka created in his works was largely a reflection of his own trappings and desperate attempts to escape them. Although The Trap was never intended as biographical, being based on Kafka’s diaries and correspondence (mainly Letters to Father) it dramatizes important images from the artist’s life, especially those illustrating his most challenging struggles and fears. In the play we see glimpses of his childhood; complex relationship with father; his failed attempts to marry; relations with friends and family; failing health, to name the most important.

  Franz’s predicaments constitute examples of traps and fears familiar to other artists and many of us. Biology, psyche, family and culture are common sources of barriers on the way to fulfilment.  The constraints of his body constituted a serious obstacle for spiritual Franz, as illustrated in the dialog between him and his sister Ottla. “Ottla - It’s all because you shut yourself up, you slam the door on the world, you lock it out and you build a trap, a burrow, with tremendous effort and the sweat of your brow; and you fall into it ill and tormented. All you have to do is open the door. Life begins outside, you take your first step, then the next, and away you fly!” To which Franz’s responds: “I am a trap, my body is a trap that caught me after birth (…) I do sometimes think of escaping, maybe I’ll free myself at last” (Rozewicz1: 42).

   Max Brod, Franz’s best friend and literary executor, wrote in his memoires about Kafka that his friend had always been torn between longing for solitude and being part of a group (Brod: 128). It appears that Franz’s shyness and aversion to physical world held a stronger grip as it often forced him to rely on family and Max to communicate with the outside world.  “Why is it that whenever you have to face life you make use of other people? Apart from writing and dying you’ve always wanted to do things by proxy (…).There you are, rat, burrowing rat! Again you want to hide but you must answer the question“. Says Max in The Trap. ”This isn’t a question, this is a noose”, replies Franz. (Rozewicz1:37).                                                                                                                                                     

   As if the above hurdles and conflict with the father were not enough, Kafka’s social milieu presented him with a further complication – a trap of culture.  Born into German speaking Jewish family in Czech speaking Prague, and educated in German, he developed an identity which was as fragmented as his personal world. Although undoubtedly enriched by multi-cultural environment, he was nevertheless deprived of the stability of mono-cultural upbringing and disturbed by his diverse background, as indicated in his diary: “Enclosed in my own four walls, I found myself as an immigrant imprisoned in a foreign country (…) I saw my family as strange aliens whose foreign customs, rites, and very language defied comprehension” (Preece: 15-31).

Kafka’s Prophecy and the Trap of History

What would have been the fate of Franz Kafka had his life not been taken by illness in 1924 at the age of 40?  In all likelihood, like his sisters, he would have perished in a Nazi concentration camp. It seems that the destiny of his family and fellow Jews was already being determined when he was still alive and the anti-Semitic sentiments were on the rise amongst Czech and German nationalists (Pavel, p.47).  Kafka has been seen as a prophet who had not only sensed his own passing but also the forthcoming tragedy of the Holocaust (Drewnowski: 294). His picture of prison-like world full of danger and pain inflicted by fellow humans, where the innocent victims go to impossible lengths to survive, came to life soon after his death. Kudos to Rozewicz for his ingenious idea of The Trap, which completes Kafka’s prophecy and fulfils his vision of the world (Braun: 55).

   The Trap, Rozewicz’s last piece written for the theatre, is an important and highly original play, with complex layers of meaning and a crucial message for its audiences. In it, Rozewicz lets us inside Kafka’s personal fears, anxieties and struggles, imparting knowledge about the writer’s complex existence as a man and a writer. On a higher level, he builds a generic portrait of a modern artist alienated and trapped by an archetypal struggle between art/spirit and life/matter, and shows us the fragility of artistic creation and human existence.

   The Trap’s originality stems from a number of sources. Firstly, from Rozewicz’s unique vision of Kafka seen through the image he had built over the period of fifty years, and the prism of his own war-time experiences. Secondly, from the freedom offered by the ‘openness’ of his theatre, which allowed him to ‘travel ’ beyond the 19th century Prague and place Kafka and his family in the ultimate nightmare and trap of the 20th century-the Holocaust. By doing so, he is able to continue sharing his painful, war-time past, and remind audiences, that the memory of ‘hell on earth’ should never be forgotten and must be kept alive as a warning to future generations.

The Trap is a serious play, yet not without potential for comedy. The Director, Hanna Bondarewska, builds on the absurdity of some of Franz’s phobic behaviours and discovers many moments of laughter. Let’s not forget about Kafka’s wit and sense of humor and the fact that his personal world was not devoid of hope and respect for life, as his Diaries indicate: “Let the heavy rain fall on you, let it cleanse you, join the stream that wants to take you; but persevere, keep standing straight and wait until the sun comes out and fills you up”. Does Rozewicz offers us hope in the play? I sincerely hope to see Kafka’s 'ray of sunshine' in The Trap before leaving the theater.

The Trap Opens May 28, 2015 at 8 pm  at XX Bldg, 814 20th Street, NW, Washington DC

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Primary Sources

Rozewicz, Tadeusz. The Trap. Translated by Adam Czerniawski. Harwood Academic Publishers, Amsterdam, 1997.

Rozewicz, Tadeusz. Selected Poems. Wydawnictwo Literackie, Krakow 1995.

Rozewicz, Tadeusz. Mother Departs. Translated by Barbara Bogoczek, storkpress.co.uk.

Rozewicz, Tadeusz. Mariage Blanc and The Hunger Artist Departs. Translated by Adam Czerniawski . Marion Boyars, London, New York, 1983.

Secondary Sources

Braun, Kazimierz.  MojTeatr Rozewicza. Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Rzeszowskiego, Rzeszow 2013.

Brod, Max. Franz Kafka. Czytelnik, Warszawa 1982. Translated from German by Tadeusz Zabludowski. German title Franz Kafka. Eine Biographie.

Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari Felix. Kafka. Toward a Minor Literature. Translation by Dana Polan. Theory and History of Literature, Vol 30, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, London.

Drewnowski, Tadeusz. Walka o Oddech. O pisarstwie Tadeusza Rozewicza. Wydawnictwo Artystyczne i Filmowe, Warszawa 1990.

Filipowicz, Halina. A Laboratory of Impure Forms. Plays of Tadeusz Rozewicz. Freenwood Publishing Group, Westport, CT, 1991.

Pavel, Ernst. Franz Kafka. Koszmar Rozumu. Translated from English by Irena Stapor. Twoj Styl, Warszawa 2003. English title The Nightmare of Reason. A Life of Franz Kafka.

Preece, Julian. The Cambridge Companion to Kafka. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2001.

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The Trap

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Ambassador Theater IS Getting Ready for the US Premiere of

The Trap

…anxieties and nightmares of Franz Kafka…

By Tadeusz Różewicz

Translated by Adam Czerniawski

Music By Jerzy Satanowski

Directed By Hanna Bondarewska

Video Direction and Production by Shawn W. Lyles

Graphic Animation by Lukasz Pinkowski

FOR MORE INFO ABOUT THE AUTHOR AND THE PLAY ONLINE

PLEASE HELP US TO BRING THIS IMPORTANT PLAY TO DC!

LAST YEAR WE RAISED $20,000

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Daniel GerouldtalksabiutRozewicz

The Open Theatre of Tadeusz Różewicz

The Open Theatre of Tadeusz Różewicz

By Daniel Gerould

  Although he has not written anything new for the theatre since The Trap (Pulapka, 1981), Tadeusz Różewicz remains the      most provocative and original Polish playwright of the post-war period. His probing of the boundaries traditionally assigned to  theatre has put him in the forefront of artistic innovators along with Kantor and Grotowski. Outstanding directors have sought to realize his work in production, despite inherent tensions between the author's radically experimental propositions and the nature of theatre itself.

With his first performed play, The Card Index ( Kartoteka, 1960), Różewicz (already a major poet) introduced a new theatrical language of fragmented structure and imagistic montage, which, at first, seemed disorienting but eventually came to be accepted as a quintessential expression of post-war sensibility. For the generation of Poles who came of age in 1939, the experience of wholesale death and destruction during the war and occupation had rendered obsolete notions of beauty, high ideals, and noble words. A new aesthetic, Różewicz felt, had to take Auschwitz as its basic premise.  Literature as it had existed until then was simply a lie. Repudiating ideologies, moral judgments and intellectual speculations as empty abstractions, the author of The Trap clung to the bare facts of human life as the only truths and the only values.

Of Polish playwrights since 1945, Różewicz has been the most restless experimenter with form. In a number of his works for the stage he undertakes an ontological analysis of theatre that questions the very assumptions that make performance possible. Recognizing that reality will not submit to the artistic conceptions of the past, the Polish poet strives to go beyond the limits of the genre. In rejecting hierarchical notions of high and low, foreground and background, beginning, middle and end, Różewicz essays a kind of drama that starts at point zero with an undifferentiated aleatory mass of sights and sounds and persists as pure duration.

Różewicz has repeatedly voiced the "desire to write a play that would be both truly realistic and at the same time poetic."  By rendering poetry realistic and realism poetic, the playwright has achieved his goal in many of his dramas. His work is realistic in the sense of being totally immersed  in existence  in  all  its  corporeality; the ordinary, the banal  and the bodily are the playwright's raw materials  which he refuses to imbue with any transcendental meaning. But Różewicz is an unorthodox "realism" unencumbered by illusionistic conventions. Externals, such as plot and cause­ and-effect sequentiality, are eliminated in favor of an interior drama that reveals life as it is experienced in the depths of stillness.

To paint a picture of everyday life in which nothing out of the ordinary hap­pens, the author of The Trap favors the simplest means: emptiness among events, silence between words, waiting. Action, the most basic element of drama in the traditionalist view, is considered by Różewicz to be the antithesis of realism and thus the negation of true theatre. "My plays have no endings," the Polish poet has declared. Rather than the temporal unfolding of a plot, he strives for the simple duration of a given situation. His aim is the creation of an "open theatre" without fixed perimeters where scenes can be re-ordered or added at will. Różewicz’s method of composition is a poetic counterpoint and collage of images producing a polyphonic form capable of accommodating a rich mixture of styles ranging from the colloquial and salacious to elegant parody and pastiche of fin-de-siècle fashions and literary traditions.

Questioning the separation of theory from practice, Różewicz has produced a new kind of script that is half treatise and polemic with his predecessors, in which extended stage directions serve as a commentary to interrupt the action and disintegrate the dramatic form. The lengthy stage directions are also arguments with all future directors with whom the play­wright may conceivably collaborate. His concept of "open theatre" involves the creation of works that can be completed only in the theatre when director, designer and performers confront the text-and one another.

For Różewicz, the struggle between a play and its realization on stage is the crowning moment of the whole theatrical process.  "What I like best in the theatre are the rehearsals," the playwright avows. "When the director fights with everything and everyone. The drama of the battle over the shape of the 'performance'." The texts that Różewicz produces are designed to heighten the conflict by resisting the efforts of theatre artists to dominate the author. "I've written my plays," the author explains, "so as to make difficulties for the directors who stage them, not to make their lives easy."

Różewicz has been fascinated with Kafka ever since he first visited Prague during the Stalin years when the Czech author was forbidden reading. Along with Chekhov and Beckett, Kafka serves as a model for Różewicz’s concept of inner drama and directly inspired two of the author's last dramas. The Hunger Artist, a highly personal adaptation of Kafka's tale, explores the creative process and the relation of artist to society.

Loosely based on the writer's diaries and letters, The Trap is an enigmatic work that "sets traps" for literal-minded critics, directors and audiences. Not one of the Czech author's literary works is ever mentioned (except the generic "Letter to His Father"), nor does the name Kafka once appear.  This is hardly the usual life of an artist in which titles and names are constantly dropped. We may ask: is The Trap a biographical play about Kafka? Różewicz himself denies that this is the case, insisting that his task as poet, after absorbing masses of facts about the Czech writer, was to depart as far as possible from the documentary material so that his own drama could come into being.

In fact, the Polish author is more concerned with Kafka's inmost fears than with the realia of his life, and except for a few fragments from the letters, Różewicz leaves his sources discreetly uncited. The Trap dramatizes anxieties and nightmares of the artist Franz as he himself experiences them in relation to his father, his family, his friend, and his fiancée. And despite his attempts to escape the many threats of confinement-existential, societal and historical-assailing him from all sides, the traps are too cunning for Franz. At first sight the highly fluid structures of time and space that Różewicz has created for The Trap make the play seem formless and meandering. The play, however, actually has a firm skeleton of recurring phrases, images and motifs. It is only superficially an "amorphous" play, Różewicz argues,"less like the crown of a tree than the underground roots intertwined and growing in all directions.  And therefore the length-in a temporal sense-of a scene on the stage does not always correspond to the length of the duration of that 'scene' or to the space that it occupies in the text."

The playwright uses Tableau XII, "At the Barber's", to illustrate the drama's temporal indeterminacy and elasticity. "The hidden magnitude of that scene is many times greater than what is shown taking place on the stage.  It is a scene that comprises the past and the future lurking in the present. … The roots are still hidden in the soil, in the darkness, of the future." The scene takes place in 1914 as war is declared on Serbia, and at the same time the Barber's assistant Vic abuses the Jewish Gentleman like a Nazi thug some twenty years later.

Structured as a series of tableaux, The Trap is a family photo album through which we can move backwards and forwards. The central image embodying all the play's dangers, the "trap" is as much biology as history. It is lurking everywhere-as the body in which Franz is imprisoned and as the camp (Auschwitz) to which his sisters will be sent. The "trap" is simultaneously present at all times, in all scenes, extending beyond Franz to the world at large. Throughout the play the Nazis are waiting behind the scenes-represented by the Black Wall. At the denouement of The Trap, what has until this point been the tragedy of a family, and of an individual victimized by the family, becomes the tragedy of the Jews. As the actors playing Kafka and his family take their bows, the Executioner-Guards come out from behind the Black Wall that opens at the back of the stage and brutally push the performers off to the trains leaving for the death camps. As the wall closes, only desperate fingers and palms of hands can be seen.

For Jerzy Jarocki, a frequent Różewicz collaborator who directed The Trap in 1992, the drama grows out of the confrontation between Kafka's apocalyptic forebodings and Różewicz’s own experiences of the war and the Holocaust. Significantly, it is not the sensitive Franz, but his blunt pragmatic Father who scents the coming of the Executioners and forecasts the Holocaust. Franz is too obsessed with the inner concentration camp of creativity to which his art has condemned him to have direct knowledge of the approaching Nazis. Whenever the Executioner-Guards appear, he is in a state of dreaming. Literature, which is Franz's fate, proves perilous to his life.

Built on a poetics of heterogeneity, The Trap consists of realistic dialogue, long multi-layered conversations, remembrances, quotations, descriptions, visions, dreams and events taking place outside Franz's consciousness as well as scenes occurring in his presence but not perceived by him. Recurrence and transformation are devices that bind the diverse layers into a whole. Felice's teeth, ready to devour the artist, become the gold crowns of the corpses at the extermination camp Majdanek. The huge wardrobe that for Franz seems a tombstone appears to his Father as a means of salvation in which the family can hide from its persecutors. Father and son pairs occur in different modalities. Despite (or perhaps because of) the writer's instructions to bum his works, Max becomes Franz's "wardrobe" that will preserve his "children" from destruction. Franz's supposed son by Grete is a monster (as he has been for his Father), the revenge of nature on the artist for giving himself exclusively to the creative imagination.

The entire drama is punctuated by the presence of Franz's Animula, or little soul, a childhood double, who, Różewicz tells us in one of his permissive stage directions, may appear at any point throughout the performance . The playwright has written several such appearances into the text, as, for ex­ample, in Tableau Ill where Animula watches Franz's dream of his Father's enactment of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac, and in Tableau XV where the "little soul" is a silent witness to the deportations through the Black Wall. Never does Animula identify with any of the characters or actions, remaining on stage alone after everyone has gone and leaving the theatre with the last spectator. If the Executioner-Guards take us ahead into a historical future, Animula always brings us back to a timeless past of childhood and its open­ eyed perceptions of adult horrors-noncommittal, non-judgmental, non­ comprehending.

Różewicz is only one of many late twentieth-century playwrights who have found in the Czech author's life and work inspiration for their own dramas, but The Trap may well be the most penetrating treatment of Kafka's psychic dilemma. It is curious to note to what extent Różewicz's intensely personal, Polish viewpoint anticipates that of the British writer Alan Bennett, who analyzes Kafka's predicament in almost identical terms, al­though his own plays on the subject are radically dissimilar.

In his "Author's Note" of 1987 to Two Kafka Plays (Kafka's Dick and The Insurance Man), Bennett views Kafka as a prey to traps both biological and historical. "Death took no chances with Kafka and laid three traps for his life," Bennett writes. "Parched and voiceless from TB of the larynx, he was forty, the victim, as he himself said, of a conspiracy by his own body.  But had his lungs not ganged up on him there was a second trap, twenty years down  the line when the agents of death would have shunted him, as they did his three sisters, into the gas chambers. That fate, though it was not to be his, is evident in his last photograph. It is a face that prefigures the concentration camp."

The third trap that might have caught Kafka (but never did) is the consequence of Bennett's playful imagining that the Czech writer first avoids TB and then escapes the Nazis by fleeing to America in 1938, only to die of asbestos poisoning which he had contracted in 1917 while managing his brother-in-law's factory. Although Bennett uses the same "trap" metaphor as Różewicz, it is unlikely that the British playwright could have known the Polish drama. And whereas Bennett has written "exterior" drama of a satirical nature about the reception, perception and consumption of Kafka as a cultural artifact in present-day Britain, Różewicz has placed Franz's ambiguous inner drama as son and artist in the context of the tragic historical catastrophe that engulfed his family, his culture, and his civilization.

The ultimate "trap" for Różewicz is Kafka himself, who, the Polish playwright avers, is a "black hole" in the European literary firmament capable of swallowing whatever is attracted to it. In The Trap Franz maintains that "Silence contains everything and is more important and vaster than speech and sound." For Różewicz , theatre has great possibilities; there is nothing it can­ not encompass. But speaking about silence has become such an impossible task that it has kept him from writing for the stage since 1981.

In 1991-ten years after the play was first published- Różewicz added a prologue to The Trap in the form of a poem, "Interrupted Conversation", which is an interior monologue by Franz during the last months or days of his life in a sanatorium near Vienna. Unable to speak, the dying writer communicates with the outside world on scraps of paper. His thoughts are dis­connected but return persistently to his obsessions: the various women in his life, his complexes, problems with his Father, reflections on war and death. According to the poet, the prologue offers a summation of the play, with stress on its twin themes of suffering and silence. It is Różewicz’s farewell to Kafka.

The Trap

 Ambassador Theater presents the US Premiere of

THE TRAP

…Anxieties and nightmares of Franz Kafka…

By Tadeusz Różewicz

Translated by Adam Czerniawski

May 28 – June 21, 2015

XX Bldg. of the George Washington University

814 20 Street, NW, Washington DC

TICKETS ONLINE

                                               

 

 

 

Hanna Bondarewska, Marlowe Vilchez and Jacqui Farkas

Seeking Santa

Ambassador Theater Presents the World Premiere of

SEEKING SANTA

A Saint Nicholas Comedy Play

By Jeannette Jaquish

Directed By Hanna Bondarewska

Music Director Petko Kolev

With

 Jacqui Farkas, Elf Hazel  

Hanna Bondarewska, Elf Toffee

 Marlowe Vilchez, Elf Zinger, Mayor, Dictator and Santa

Petko Kolev, Voice and Guitar

Puppets By Julia Tasheva 

Set and Props Design By Anna Klamczynska

SYNOPSIS
Santa is missing and St. Nicholas Day is tomorrow! Elves are panicking. They find a clue and follow it to one place after another, each time encountering characters who tell the elves their problems. The Elves figure out what they really need to solve their problems
themselves. When they get back to the workshop Santa is there with a final gift solution.

A FUN TRAVELING SHOW!

Photos

OPENING DECEMBER 6, 2014

TO ORDER CONTACT AMBASSADOR THEATER at artisticdirector@aticc.org or call (703) 475-4036

 

 

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Found object puppetry, dance, and singing workshop

KidsEuroFestivalPART OF KIDS EURO FESTIVAL 2014

 Age 1-100
40 minutes-45 minutes

FREE FOR ALL

The renowned Bulgarian director Lilia Slavova and master puppeteer Julia Tasheva bring their third installment of a series of workshops based on Bulgarian folklore.

Come join Bulgarian artists hand in hand for an amusing trip of imagination and fantasy accompanied by music, dance, and songs. 
Common objects from the near past, with the help of young audience members, will find new life and take us on a journey of Bulgarian folk tradition and culture.A cheerful educational workshop full of music, songs and puppets that invites the young and not so young audiences on stage and introduces them to Bulgarian ethnography and traditions! The workshop employs historic Bulgarian folk items to create unexpected puppets that come to life in the hands of young workshop participants. Traditional singing and dancing will also be featured.

Julia Tasheva is an award-winning master puppeteer and mime artist with professional experience on two continents.
Lilia Slavova is an award-winning director, actress, and acting coach living on both continents.

Both artists received the inaugural Kiril and Metodi Bulgarian Culture Award, amongst numerous other awards and recognitions both as performers and directors.

A cheerful educational workshop full of music, songs and puppets that invites the young and not so young audiences on stage and introduces them to the Bulgarian ethnography and traditions!

Come and join us hand in hand for an amusing trip of imagination and fantasy with the help of Bulgarian Folk Music and everyday objects from the near past .In the hands of skillful Bulgarian artist they will find new life and take us on a journey of the Bulgarian folk tradition and culture.
FREE FOR ALL

FOR TICKETS RESERVATIONS

November 1, 2014 La Maison Francaise, Embassy of France 11-3 PM

November 6, 2014, Hill Center 10:30 AM

November 9, 2014 Reagan International Trade Center 3 PM
 

Ariana Almajan as Laura Whalen and Marlowe Vilchez as Raymond Stitt in Ambassador Theater's production of "Rage" by Michele Riml, directed by Joe Banno 

Photo by Val Radev

To kill or be killed – That is the Question in Michele Riml’s ‘Rage’

FROM LITERARY DIRECTOR

By Eliza Anna Falk
The Ambassador Theater International Cultural Centre (ATICC) and its Founder and Artistic Director, Hanna Bondarewska, are not afraid of challenges and demanding repertoire. Providing a platform for expression of complex narratives, whilst working toward building bridges between di verse cultures and groups, lies at the core of ATICC’s mission.  Showcasing plays from around the world is what the Ambassador Theater does best. This year the American audiences will have the opportunity to see ‘Rage’, a riveting play, written by a critically acclaimed Canadian playwright, Michele Riml.  
In ‘Rage’, the winner of the 2005 Sydney Risk Prize and 2008 Jessie Richardson Award, two opposing worlds collide and shake us up with a loud bang!  The drama’s intense plot and a shocking finale force us to reflect on the complexity of the human psyche and examine where we stand on the issue of violence.  And if it is just for a brief moment, that we stop and think about our contribution to peace, the production is a success. 
Riml’s pairing of two opposite philosophies and animating them by two equally incompatible characters, is what has attracted Joe Banno to the script. The award winning Director has always been drawn to naturalistic plays dealing with psychology of intricate relationships, and humans crossing lines between good and evil. ‘Rage’, just like his beloved Shakespearian dramas, puts a spotlight on a dysfunctional relationship and proves that real people are flawed, changeable and capable of anything.  
In the play, a radical, suicidal student called Rage brings his father’s gun to school in preparation for a counselling session with Laura, one of his teachers. A philosophical discussion on peace and violence turns into a blood chilling duel after Rage asks Laura to do the impossible – or so we think. The odds are high for the Hitler’s sympathiser to harm a human being representing all he despises, yet how about the pacifist abandoning her ‘being peace’ attitude and turning violent?
Laura may be idealistic but is she weak? Why ruthless and uncompromising Rage goes through a moment of weakness? These are only some of the questions, the Director and Actors (Ariana Almajan and Marlowe Vilchez) had spent time discussing before and after moving rehearsals to the stage. Deconstructing the characters through analysis of their personalities, motivations and behaviours, was crucial in bringing them to life and allowing the Actors to acclimatize with and understand the personas they were going to inhabit. Not to mention decoding the play’s intention and message.
 Michele Riml wants to tell us much more than the important obvious. We know that facts of life cannot be changed – good and evil go together like light and darkness, and peace and violence have always existed in tandem. We know that guns have been made accessible to youngsters with tragic consequences. It is also common knowledge that growing up is difficult; especially for those born with predisposition to depression and violent behaviour; and that schooling is unpopular with many students, making teachers potential targets of resentment and abuse.
 It is rather uncommon for a pupil to harm a teacher, however, as the publicly available data demonstrates, student violence against educators has become a common occurrence across the American schools. Whilst preventative measures are being implemented, plays such as ‘Rage’ are crucial in exposing the issue to the public and emphasizing the gravity of the crisis. The graphic presence of the gun and the way it is used in the play in front of the live audience is part of Riml’s strategy and her attempt to show us the danger for what it really is – another life about to be lost.
 The drama is a strong reminder to parents and firearms owners to play their part in trying to prevent school shootings by practicing good parenting and keeping weapons away from children and adolescents. The importance of parental and environmental contribution to the process of early and on-going prevention cannot be emphasised often enough.   Although solution to the multilayered problem of youth violence requires action on numerous levels, experts generally agree that early intervention by families and around the environments that children live in are most effective.
Another truth ’Rage’ brings to mind is that holding a belief may be a passive position to be in until it is complicated by intrusion of experience with its power to trigger responses not necessarily matching the ideals. The play incites us to think about grey areas between theory and action and gives us a chance to reflect on ‘what if’ situations. Banno praises the play for opening up a very important debate on whether violence can be justified, especially in extreme circumstances, such as the current one with ISIS and their ‘to kill or be killed’ motto.
 Pertinent questions around violence and complexity of human responses bring us to the issue of ‘Rage’s’ finale and audience’s expectations. The director is a fan of open endings and had been toying with the idea until the author disclosed that the approach had been already trialled and given ‘thumbs down’ by the audience. Thus, it is safe to announce that the approaching Ambassador Theater’s production will not only allow audiences to witness the drama unfolding, but also make them privy to its unexpected conclusion!  

OCT. 22 – NOV. 16, 2014

At FLASHPOINT, 916 G Street, NW, Washington DC 20001

TICKETS ONLINE

 

OPENING NIGHT OF RAGE

GET YOUR TICKET TODAY

Ambassador Theater cordially invites you to a VIP Opening of 

RAGE 

By Michele Riml 

“A riveting work by the Canadian author, Michele Riml, recipient of the JESSIE RICHARDSON AWARD 2008!" 

  

Directed By Helen Hayes awarded director, Joe Banno 

Produced by Hanna Bondarewska 

Featuring: 

Ariana Almajan as Laura Whalen 

Marlowe Vilchez as Raymond Stitt 

October 23, 2014 at 8 pm 

Reception Hosted by 

Canadian Sweets & Treats Catering & Event Planning 

(LINK) 

SEATING IS LIMITED, PLEASE RSVP! 

We would love to see you! 

2014/2015

UPCOMING 2014/2015

MAIN STAGE PRODUCTIONS:

RAGE  – Oct. 22 – Nov. 16, 2014

by Michele Riml 

Directed by Joe Banno

Mead Theatre Lab at FLASHPOINT, 916 G Street, NW, Washington DC 20001

TICKETS ONLINE

THE TRAP – MAY 28 – JUNE 21, 2015

By Tadeusz Rozewicz

Directed by Hanna Bondarewska

 

 

 

School in crisis in Michele Riml’s “Rage” by Eliza Anna Falk

ElizaFalk_1038x576 School in crisis in Michele Riml’s ‘Rage’ (premiering on 23 October at Mead Theatre Lab at Flashpoint, produced by Ambassador Theatre, directed by Joe Banno)

In Michele Riml’s* Rage, winner of the 2005 Sydney Risk Prize and 2008 winner of Jessie Richardson Award, an after school counselling session unexpectedly turns into a blood chilling ‘duel’ between a disturbed, radical student and his New Age, pacifist guidance counsellor, Laura. Disillusioned with life and day to day existence Raymond, who prefers to be called Rage, decides to take extreme measures to voice his frustration and uses his father’s gun to help him in his quest. Well- red, articulate and intelligent, able to control his emotions and pre-calculate his moves, he shuns the option of random shooting and instead singles out the guidance counsellor to hear him out, respond to his arguments and determine his fate.

 Threatened with school expulsion, disappointed with school politics and hypocrisy of both teachers and parents, the suicidal teenager usurps Laura’s attention to defend his behaviour and convictions, challenging the education system and the counsellor’s personal values in the process. The gun he produces and later hands over to his ‘prisoner’ becomes a devilish tool in a life and death struggle of two desperate opponents. Does a pacifist abandon her ‘being peace’ attitude she lives by, and turn violent? Does the Hitler’s sympathiser end up annihilating a human being representing all he despises and rejects? The play’s intense and compelling plot and a provocative dialog will keep you on the edge of your seat, forcing you to think deeply and examine your own values in relation to the issues of peace, happiness, violence and gun control.

For a pupil to harm a teacher is generally regarded as a rare and deeply disturbing phenomenon. However, as the available data demonstrates, student violence against educators has become a common occurrence across the American schools. “Teacher victimisation is a nation crisis” according to Dr. Dorothy Espelage of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who has presided over the American Psychology Association’s Task force on Classroom Violence Directed at Teachers. When interviewed by Tim Walker from the National Education Association in February 2013, Dr. Espelage confirmed that according to the 2011 study, 80 percent of teachers surveyed were victimised at school at least once in a current or prior school year. Such common occurrences give rise to potential ultra-violent behaviours, such as usage of weapons against teachers and fellow students, as illustrated by the tragic trail of school shootings in the US.

The growing and death bearing crisis calls for strong and effective measures to protect both students and teachers, especially when, as Tim Walker reports,” the issue is generally ignored, down played or at least underreported by media” and as such poses a growing threat to the safety of school staff and students. With about one –quarter of teachers experiencing physical attacks, the survey emphasises an urgent need for increased training and vigilance in monitoring violent behaviour against school personnel, a result begging for immediate implementation and on-going assessment. Since the 2011 study, the US President has put forward a proposal for a wide-ranging plan ‘Now is the time’, to aid in protecting schools and communities by reducing gun violence and increasing resources to schools.

Whilst preventative measures are being developed and introduced, plays such as Rage are crucial in exposing the issue to the public and emphasising the gravity of the crisis. Extreme danger calls for extreme action. Riml, fully aware of the urgency of the situation, takes a bold approach leaving subtlety out, which may be regarded as too intimidating by some, especially those preferring to be told about violence and not confronted with it. Not afraid of ‘rocking the boat’, instead of keeping the gun hidden from audience’s eyes Riml gives it a ‘life’ and a full exposure. The graphic presence of the weapon and the way it is used in the play in front of the live audience is part of Riml’s strategy and her attempt to break us out of our comfort zone and show us the danger for what it really is – another life about to be lost. 

Ambassador Theatre’s production, directed by Helen Hayes awarded Joe Banno, featuring Ariana Almajan as Laura Whalen and Marlowe Vilchez as Raymond Stitt, aims to turn Riml’s vision into reality with force and conviction. The rehearsals are underway and already the characters and their opposing view points come to life with all the tension and escalating danger intended. The actors move the story forward with passion, fast becoming the characters they play, getting lost in the souls and minds of an aggressive student and a pacifist teacher fighting a battle none of them can really win. 

*Michele Riml is a critically acclaimed playwright from Vancouver, British Columbia. Her plays have been widely produced across Canada. They include Miss Teen, Under the Influence, Poster Boys, RAGE, Souvenirs, On the Edge, The Amaryllis and Henry and Alice: Into the Wild, the sequel to Sexy Laundry which has been translated and produced in Poland, Germany, New Zealand, Iceland, Mexico and the USA. Her plays for young audiences include, RAGE (also translated into French), The Skinny Lie, The Invisible Girl and Tree Boy (also translated into German). Michele was nominated for the 2008 Siminovitch Prize. She is represented by Colin Rivers at Marquis Entertainment in Toronto, Canada.

Performances: Oct. 22 – Nov., 16, 2014 at FLASHPOINT, 916 G Street, NW, Washington DC 20001

TICKETS ONLINE via Instant Seats